Australian venture capital fund Future Now Ventures has made its first investment in remote worker management tech company JESI, as the fund nears a final close at the upper end of its $80 million to $125 million target range.
Started by OKERE Consulting and GlobalOne founder John Orrock in 2013, Future Now began as his personal investment vehicle, but late last year he began raising capital for its first external fund.
JESI, a Queensland-based business founded in Townsville, enables organisations to keep track of remote workers who travel frequently or work in environments with heightened risks. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has also added additional features to the platform to help employers manage workers who are isolated at home.
“Outside of COVID it wouldn’t have been the first investment. But now managers are dealing with large remote workforces and JESI does it in a modern way,” Mr Orrock said.
“Organisations will now be focused on how to meet these requirements and the JESI solution is scalable. It was also a company we were familiar with and tracking because I’d made a small investment from my family office.”
JESI has more than 50 enterprise clients across 16 countries, with Rio Tinto, Easternwell, BHP, South32 and Clough all using it.
It was born after co-founder Joe Hoolahan had a friend, who was a travelling salesman, get into a serious road accident, which resulted in him being trapped upside down for hours before being found. This was despite him being only 10 minutes from his final destination and having a group of friends waiting for him.
“In regions with a lot of travel, people say ‘give me a call when you get there’ a lot,” Mr Hoolahan said.
“You’d go to bed and get on with your life, but have people out on the road.
“I spoke with a friend in mining and resources and established that this thing called journey management kept a lot of people up at night. It was also cumbersome, involving a lot of paper in filing cabinets.”
Since starting in 2012, JESI has completed a few small capital raising, but the $4.5 million from Future Now is its first major round.
“It allows us to bring in the talent we need … bringing on people who have done this escalation in scale before and who have deep domain experience in enterprise software-as-a-service sales,” Mr Hoolahan said.
“In the seven years we’ve been in the market, while we haven’t shot the moon out with numbers and figures … there’s been 1.5 million completed safe journeys [using JESI] in 16 different nations.”
The Future Now fund has exclusive access to companies selected for Microsoft’s accelerated growth program.
While Mr Orrock is the managing partner of Future Now, it has an independent investment committee that has to unanimously approve any investment the fund makes.
This committee is made up of former Morgan Stanley CEO and current Westpac director Steve Harker, early Atlassian employee turned Code Barrel co-founder Nick Menere, Accor Hotels Asia Pacific deputy CEO Louise Daley and former Boston Consulting Group senior executive Doug Ross.
“Our day job is to get inside some of these companies and we need this expert lens from the outside that’s not so invested in the process to really be that sounding board to make sure we’re asking all the right questions,” Mr Orrock said.
Ms Daley believes her background sitting on Accor’s disruption and growth board positions her better for investment committee roles than boards, said it was this focus on outcomes for investors that motivated her to join.
Just before the world went into COVID-19 lockdown, Future Now closed its first $20 million tranche of capital in March, but decided not to call on these funding commitments because of the pandemic.
This decision, Mr Orrock said, turned out to be the right one because the good faith they showed to investors at a time of major uncertainty was repaid via introductions and further commitments once most of Australia started returning to normal.
“We got a lot of respect from investors for that,” he said.
Australian venture capital fund Future Now Ventures has backed JESI, a start-up that has built technology to help organisations keep tabs on remote workers.